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What an Orchestra Can Teach Your Company About High-Performance Teams

Do you ever feel like you’re conducting an orchestra? It’s hard to get all the people and parts moving harmoniously, isn’t it?

On a recent episode of Talking Business Now, I talked with Maestro Roger Nierenberg, the founder of The Music Paradigm. Nierenberg believes organizations can learn many critical lessons from orchestras, including insights into team collaboration and how to be more productive.

The Music Paradigm is an immersive learning experience Nierenberg created for business leaders, using actual orchestras. Company participants discover how the orchestra mirrors their company’s own culture.

Nierenberg made his New York conducting debut at Avery Fisher with the Pro Arte Chorale and Orchestra. He’s conducted numerous American orchestras as well as several abroad, including recording with the London Philharmonic and conducting at the Prague Spring Festival and the Beijing Festival. While he was with the Jacksonville Symphony, he made an astute observation after listening to many business and civic leaders: the challenges and opportunities organizations face during times of rapid change could be demonstrated with an orchestra. The Music Paradigm was born.

The format itself is simple enough: customized two-hour sessions consisting of a pre-meeting, the session with the orchestra and follow-up discussions. Nierenberg meets with the leadership team to explore their challenges and goals. He then creates interactive exercises for the orchestra designed to bring the company’s issues to life.

Next, the organization’s participants are seated within the orchestra. As participants observe the musicians, they focus on the dynamics at play. Because the orchestra is mirroring the actual dynamics of the company , participants discover some surprising and fascinating lessons about dysfunction, diversity and leadership.

“I’m asking them to adopt certain behaviors that are very much like the kinds of behaviors that either they want to bring about in their own organization, or else, they don’t want to admit that it’s holding them back,” Nierenberg said. “And so the orchestra becomes kind of a mirror for them to look at themselves and see themselves more clearly than they can in real life.”

Afterwards, Nierenberg conducts a discussion with participants about what they have just experiences and the key lessons that can be drawn.

If you’re interested in more details about The Music Paradigm and what your organization can learn from it, click here to listen to the full podcast.

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What CEOs and C-Suite Leaders Really Want

Chris Westfall Leadership Meeting

What do leaders really want?
That’s the question that IBM asked over 1500 CEOs: what’s the number one quality you look for, in a leader?

From Dubai to Dubuque, and everywhere in between, CEOs weighed in on the most desired aspect of leadership.

Surprisingly, the most-desired quality or characteristic was not technical competence.

It wasn’t loyalty, or communication skills, or financial acumen.

The top characteristic wasn’t charisma. Or empathy.

The number-one most important characteristic for business leaders?


That characteristic is quite surprising, when you consider the traditional definition of creativity.  Under careful consideration, “being creative” is not always a positive and encouraging description.

Related: Find out what Entrepreneur has to say, about Identifying Your Blind Spot

For financial professionals, project managers, executives and other task- or numbers-oriented individuals, the call for creativity seems quite contrary to the training and experiences that form the very foundation of the business world.

For example: Where do you find creative accountants?
Answer: Jail.

“Creative” skills are not commonplace in shipping, accounts payable, or operations.  Or are they?

Creativity, in the context of business, means the power of creation.  Creativity is the way that leaders harness imagination to disrupt the status quo, and find new solutions to the same old problems. The global leaders in the IBM survey are seeking creative solutions to business challenges.  The leaders in the survey identify creativity as the antidote for the status quo.

For leaders, creativity is a vital disruption. Creativity is the birthplace of innovation.

Creativity can exist anywhere a process is created or improved. That means in shipping, accounts payable, or operations. And especially in the C-Suite.

Creativity means many things, but at its core, the process of creation begins with an idea.

Based on current information, “what if?” opens the door to imagination. New solutions can only come from within the realm of new ideas.  As the economy continues to expand, the leaders of tomorrow are the ones who are open to new concepts, new perspectives and new solutions.  Seeing things as they are is an important skill.

But, for C-Suite leaders: seeing things as they could be – and then making them that way? Well, that takes some creativity.

  • Do you agree? What does creativity mean to you, and to your organization?
  • How do you develop a workplace where creativity is allowed to thrive?
  • How is creativity linked to innovation for you?


About the Author:

Chris Westfall is the publisher of seven books, including the international best-seller, The NEW Elevator Pitch. His latest title is Leadership Language: Communication Skills for Changing Your Results, coming from Wiley in the fall of 2018. Find out more on his website, and follow him on twitter.



photo credit: Philadelphia Business Meeting image by the author

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